When it comes to navigating the complexities involved in immigration, having a lawyer by your side can be a big help. An immigration lawyer can provide support to you and your family during your immigration journey.
What is an immigration lawyer?
An immigration lawyer, or immigration attorney, is someone who specializes in the immigration process. They provide guidance and representation to individuals, families and businesses dealing with immigration-related matters. Immigration lawyers assist their clients with green card petitions, visa applications, asylum claims, deportation defense and other immigration issues.1
What does an immigration lawyer do?
Immigration lawyers have a wide range of responsibilities related to assisting clients with their immigration needs. Specific duties depend on their areas of practice, but here are a few of their specialties:1,2
- Document preparation: Immigration attorneys help clients prepare and submit essential documents to immigration authorities. These can include visa applications, green card petitions, employment authorization documents and asylum claims.
- Client representation: Immigration lawyers can represent clients before immigration authorities and immigration courts. In addition to their advisory role, they might attend interviews and hearings on behalf of their clients.
- Appeals and litigation: Immigration lawyers might file appeals or take legal action to challenge unfavorable immigration verdicts on behalf of their clients.
- Deportation protection: When clients are confronted with deportation, immigration lawyers can provide a defense to thwart deportation or postpone it long enough to also explore legal ways to mount a challenge.
- Naturalization and citizenship: Immigration attorneys can help clients seeking naturalization or citizenship by providing legal guidance. Some immigration lawyers specifically specialize in matters related to naturalization and citizenship; these lawyers may also be referred to as naturalization lawyers, or citizenship lawyers.
- Asylum and refugee claims: Immigration lawyers assist clients seeking asylum or refugee status by preparing and presenting their cases to immigration authorities.
- Employment services: Immigration lawyers who specialize in employment-based immigration cases assist clients hoping to pursue job opportunities. They can help them secure work visas and permits or obtain green cards for permanent employment.
Naturalization vs. citizenship: What’s the difference?
Naturalization is the process by which foreign nationals become citizens of a country. Citizenship refers to the status of being a legal member of a country, which in the U.S. can be obtained through birth or naturalization.3
When may you need an immigration lawyer?
While more straightforward immigration matters may be handled without legal help, others could be harder to navigate on your own due to the level of complexity and potential for legal pitfalls.
Here are some situations in which hiring an immigration lawyer may be in your best interest:
- If your immigration application was denied: An immigration lawyer can help you determine why your application was denied and advise you on the next steps. They can also help you with the appeal process.
- If you or a loved one are facing deportation: An immigration lawyer can represent you in court. They can also explore your options for legal defense and help you understand your rights.
- If you’ve been waiting an unreasonable amount of time for a response: An immigration lawyer, well versed in the application process and its associated wait times, can assist with expediting the evaluation of your application.
- If you’ve committed or have been convicted of a crime: A criminal conviction or criminal record can cause a barrier to immigration and lead to deportation. An immigration lawyer can evaluate how criminal charges might affect your immigration status and find legal avenues to minimize consequences.
- If you’re pursuing an employment-based visa without active employer support: An immigration lawyer can review the employment offer, contracts, and any promises made by the employer to ensure your interests are protected. They can also help you explore alternative visa options.
- If you’re facing a divorce or separation from a permanent resident spouse: A divorce or separation can trigger various immigration-related issues, such as loss of immigration status. An immigration lawyer can help you navigate the process.
- If you’re immigrating with a child who is nearing the age of 21: Before your permanent residence status is granted, a child approaching 21 may not qualify as a “child” for immigration purposes and may need to transition to a different visa category. An immigration lawyer can help you protect your child's eligibility or explore alternative options.
Situations will vary but generally if your case involves deportation, asylum, naturalization or employment, you might benefit from the expertise and guidance of an immigration lawyer.
How much does an immigration lawyer cost?
Just like fees associated with hiring other types of lawyers, the cost to hire an immigration attorney can vary widely depending on various factors including the complexity of the case, the lawyer’s location, their experience level and the specific services required.
Immigration attorneys typically charge flat fees, rather than hourly rates, for their services.4 This may include retainer fees, contingency fees and consultation fees.
How legal insurance can help
Enrolling in legal insurance may help reduce or offset the out-of-pocket costs of hiring a lawyer. Check the terms and coverage provided by your legal plan to see if coverage for immigration services is included.
In addition to cost savings, legal insurance offers access to a network of legal experts. These professionals provide guidance for a wide range of legal situations. With a legal insurance plan, you can receive assistance with matters ranging from estate planning and home buying to divorce and identity theft.